United short on firepower

Manchester United's Paul Pogba putting the ball in the Southampton net in the 81st minute but it was disallowed for offside. The Premier League match ended 0-0, which was United's third consecutive draw in the league.
Manchester United's Paul Pogba putting the ball in the Southampton net in the 81st minute but it was disallowed for offside. The Premier League match ended 0-0, which was United's third consecutive draw in the league.PHOTO: REUTERS

With Lukaku and Zlatan injured, Martial and Rashford must step up against Everton today

LONDON • Jose Mourinho takes Manchester United to Everton today amid a major striker crisis as he faces former Old Trafford favourite and club record scorer Wayne Rooney.

Romelu Lukaku suffered a worrying head injury early in Saturday's disappointing 0-0 draw with Southampton, United's third successive draw and a result which saw them drop below Chelsea and into third place in the Premier League.

But, of arguably greater concern, Mourinho also revealed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has suffered a knee injury which will sideline him for at least a month - the problem compounded by reports that the 36-year-old has suffered damage to the same knee in which he tore ligaments at the end of last season.

Lukaku, meanwhile, has been ruled out for at least two games - the visit to Goodison Park and Friday's FA Cup third-round meeting with Championship side Derby County at Old Trafford.

The former Everton striker was stretchered off after only eight minutes after a clash of heads with Saints defender Wesley Hoedt.

While he did not need to go to hospital and was cleared of serious injury, Premier League rules state that a player who has been diagnosed with concussion is not allowed to play for a minimum of six days.

Mourinho insisted he is happy with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who are set to feature in the absence of Lukaku and Ibrahimovic, but refused to be drawn on whether he will now seek to strengthen his attack in this month's transfer window.

  • 113 

    Since Jose Mourinho's first game in charge of Manchester United in August 2016, they have collected 113 points from 59 Premier League games - fewer than Chelsea (138), Manchester City (136), Tottenham Hotspur (123) and Liverpool (117). Arsenal have one point fewer (112) but have also played one game less (58).

In a week when the Portuguese said the £300 million (S$542.4 million) he has spent on his squad so far is "not enough" to compete with free-spending rivals Manchester City, United started with a line-up worth £378 million. Yet the Red Devils ended a 20-game scoring run at Old Trafford in all competitions.

Mourinho refused to criticise his players after another disappointing result, choosing again to blame officiating for his team's troubles.

United failed with a strong first-half penalty claim for handball by Maya Yoshida, who admitted he was fortunate not to concede a spot kick. Said Mourinho of referee Craig Pawson: "A very good referee, one of the most promising young referees in England and Europe too, had a very bad decision that punished us."

United could have won it in the 81st minute. The ball seemed to be going in after a scramble in the box following Ashley Young's free kick, but an offside Paul Pogba touched it in anyway and the offside flag came up, summing up the hosts' frustration.

That United were booed off after the final whistle told its own story.

They managed just three shots on target - as did the visitors - and will need to regroup quickly against an Everton side looking to bounce back from their first defeat under Sam Allardyce. The Toffees on Saturday lost 1-2 at Bournemouth.

United could be without Young after he appeared to catch Southampton's Dusan Tadic with an elbow in the second half, subjecting him to the potential of retrospective Football Association action and suspension if they deem it deliberate.

Long-term injury victims Marouane Fellaini, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick and Eric Bailly are not expected to be back in time while Chris Smalling is rated doubtful for the Goodison Park game.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2018, with the headline 'United short on firepower'. Print Edition | Subscribe